The city estimates that around 7,600 asylum seekers have arrived via buses from the border in recent months. Many don’t know where to find food, clothing, and other services that are available, so City Limits has prepared this resource guide to help them navigate the city after talking to dozens of them.
Thousands of asylum seekers from the southern border have arrived in New York City over the last few months, including in publicly announced buses from Texas. Of the 7,600 who’ve come so far, around 5,700 have entered the city’s shelter system as they await a determination in their immigration cases, according to the latest numbers shared by officials.
Many of these newest New Yorkers told City Limits they are struggling to navigate the city and don’t know where to find help to access basic necessities such as food, clothing, and school supplies for those with children. “It’s so complicated,” one woman from Colombia recently told City Limits. “And it’s all in English.”
While the city recently launched a multi-agency plan to aid this population, particularly with the school enrollment process, it has likewise struggled to keep up with the influx of new residents, which Mayor Eric Adams called a “herculean task.” As a result, many of their needs are being met by volunteers, community-based organizations, and mutual aid groups who have been organizing on the ground to supply migrant families with clothing, meals, transportation and other resources.
“This is a humanitarian disaster and people do not survive this alone. We survive in community, that’s what we do,” said Sergio Tupac Uzurin of NYC ICE Watch, one of the groups that’s been aiding migrants as they arrive at the Port Authority, keeping tabs on many of them as they enter shelter and providing information and other help as needed.
The immigration system is “designed to create confusion” Uzurin said, adding that the most pressing needs they’ve encountered so far include “water, food, clothes, and legal services.
Grannies Respond is a national organization that assists refugees, asylum seekers and other immigrants with a “huge network of helpers,” including their New York City volunteers, dubbed TEAM TLC (Tender, Love, and Care). The group too goes to the Port Authority bus station to greet new asylum seekers, setting up a table to provide food, water and other goods, escorting people to the bathrooms or using some of their funding to take them shopping for necessities.
Catherine Cole, the executive director of Grannies Respond, says the biggest need is “housing, housing, housing.” The group has coordinated with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to help people enter the shelter system, and partnered with groups such as South Bronx Mutual Aid and Rethink Food, which has provided boxed meals for migrant arrivals.
Rap4Bronx, another aid group, helps transport that food to Port Authority so it’s there when people arrive (some asylum seekers from Texas who’ve been sent to the city by the state’s Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said they were given very little food for the long journey).
“They’re in need of support for all their basic needs,” said Shana McCormick, executive director at Rap4Bronx, which was formed during the start of the pandemic to provide emergency food assistance when food pantries were closed down.
New arrivals are usually feeling, “a lot of confusion, mixed with hope, of course,” McCormick said. “They really could use as much direction as possible,” she added. “They have been through a lot, and we don’t want to further confuse them.”
Over the longer term, groups like La Colmena on Staten Island can help connect new immigrants with workforce development services, including welding and carpentry classes or even legal training so that individuals know about their rights when it comes to work, and how to spot discriminatory practices like wage theft.
“People are just looking for jobs and we could equip them with those specific skills or network,” said executive director Yesenia Mata. Additionally, La Colmena provides breakfast every morning at 7 a.m. so its clients can start the work day off with food in their stomach.
The goal, Mata said, is “to make sure they’re able to provide for their family, but most importantly that they have a community behind them.”
For months City Limits has been talking to dozens of asylum seekers and has developed the resource list below based on the questions they asked and needs they shared. Know something we missed and should include? Email us: Daniel@citylimits.org
Food and meals
There are several ways to access free food in New York: go to a food pantry, go to a soup kitchen, or call 311 (the city’s hotline) for urgent food and hunger needs and ask to be connected to the Emergency Food Assistance Program. “Everyone is eligible for emergency food assistance, regardless of immigration status,” reads the Access NYC webpage.
To find a food pantry or soup kitchen, go to Food Help NYC map and type in a location. You can also download the NYC311 App, available for free for devices with Apple iOS and Android operating systems.
Lemontree Foods recently created a map of food pantries and food banks in the city, the state, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
There are also community fridges across the five boroughs stocked by neighborhood volunteers.
- Your Network Caring Community Advocate (YNCCA)/Sustainable United Neighborhood (SUN) at Bushwick Generator, 215 Moore St., Brooklyn, is assisting with food, clothing, and baby products. Call (917) 335-5757
- St. John the Divine Cathedral – Community Cares’ Clothing Closet is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 111th Street. Call (212) 316-7540.
- Ephesus 7th Day Adventist Church, 101 W. 123rd St. at Lenox Avenue, on Tuesdays only from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Call (212) 662-5536.
- The Bowery Mission at 227 Bowery (between Prince Street and Rivington Street). Arrive at 6:30 a.m. to fill out a form to schedule an appointment. Call (212) 226-6214 for more info.
- Astoria Food Pantry at 25-82 Steinway St., every Wednesday except the first week of the month, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (first come, first serve).
The city’s Department of Education’s Family Welcome Centers can help parents and caregivers of children and youth to receive support services, including help with enrollment and school supplies.
- Grace Dodge Campus, 2474 Crotona Ave,, Bronx, NY 10458
- Stevenson Campus, 1980 Lafayette Ave., Bronx, NY 10473
- Boys & Girls High School, 1700 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY 11213
- P.S. 152 School of Science & Technology. 725 East 23rd Street, Auditorium, 2nd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11210
- High School of Fashion Industries, 225 West 24th St., auditorium, 1st Floor, New York, NY 10011
- 90-27 Sutphin Boulevard, 1st Floor, Jamaica, NY 11435
- P.S. 19 Marino P. Jeantet School, 98-02 Roosevelt Ave., Corona, NY 11368
- Petrides Family Welcome Center, 715 Ocean Terrace, Building A, Staten Island, NY 10301
MetroCards and cash assistance
- Make The Road NY, 301 Grove St., Brooklyn, NY 11237, (718) 418-7690
Mutual aid groups assisting with emergencies (shelter, medical support)
- South Bronx Mutual Aid, via WhatsApp message only: (212) 920-6570
- IENY (Inmigrantes en Nueva York) Ayuda Mutua, via WhatsApp message only: (347) 287-1949
Free immigration legal help is available through the ActionNYC hotline at 800-354-0365, or call 311 and say “ActionNYC,” between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday. It’s free and safe.
Past City Limits explainers that might be useful:
- How Can Undocumented Immigrants Receive HIV/AIDS Treatment In NY?
- Lo que necesita saber: Clases gratuitas de inglés en Nueva York
- Lo que necesita saber sobre: La licencia de conducción para indocumentados en Nueva York
- Lo que necesita saber: Asesoría gratuita para problemas de vivienda en Nueva York
- Lo que necesita saber sobre: ¿Cómo las personas indocumentadas pueden acceder a servicios de salud con NYC Care?